There used to be film stars… people that Hollywood put into lead roles in their films because they were good looking, or sexy or just looked the part. They were contracted to make a number of films for a studio and therefore often played roles they were ill suited too or were far above their acting ability. Moreover, every so often a body was plucked from the stage because of their fame and parachuted into a film role. Here they enunciated and bellowed as if needing to whisper to the upper circle and allow every nuance of the plot to be telegraphed via their faces
Thankfully this is almost a thing of the past and acting skills are a million miles further along the road and performances in even minor roles are realistic, engaging and emotive.
But that is for blockbusters and art films or superior TV drama. Hundreds of TV channels ill the airways with formulaic dross from which arise not stars but short lived meteorites that flash across the screen so fast that if you are not watching that obscure channel or daytime slot pass by unnoticed. Yet they have, in that instant, become celebrities.
Minor actors, documentary subjects, panel game contestants and ‘reality’ TV participants earn fame enough to acquire the label, sufficient for them to turn on the Christmas lights in Frinton-on-sea, open a supermarket in Aston-under-Lyne or become a contestant on a ‘star-studded’ edition of a celebrity game show.
My better half reads a daily newspaper and some magazines, so I am forever asking her who the so-called celebrities are who appear on a panel or take part in the sort of inane show I relax to.
Answers will come back such as ‘Oh, he was a finalist in X-factor three years ago’ or ‘She was thrown out of Big Brother the year before last, for making a racist remark’ or some other 15 minute fame slot that now constitutes celebrity.
I do not begrudge these people their moments in the limelight. Nor do I mind that some ‘towie’ wannabe cashes in to do something odd on ice or be ridiculed on a panel game. After all, he or she may be so thick that they are virtually unemployable and a guest appearance on a daytime potboiler saves the state the cost of keeping them in bejazzle beads or hair gel.
What I really resent ‘though are the minor actors and actresses, presenters and pundits who get to travel the world and stay in luxury hotels in exotic locations… in some show purporting to be a documentary.
An ageing actress gets to live on a dessert island surrounded by noddies and tropic birds; a soap star gets to jet off to Costa Rica or a daytime panel pundit gets to sample sailing the Greek Islands in search of the perfect villa.
Most of the time they have no idea about nature or history or culture and were picked purely for their well-known face. I resent it because I could have done it better but am far too ugly to consider.
[Recently a relative took part on a TV quiz show. He was told what to wear and what not to. Told he had to stand and clearly picked for looking the part. Producers and directors do not chose fat middle aged cripples unless they are ‘celebrities’.]
Everything that happens on screen seems to be in line with some formula or orthodoxy… not for the benefit of the audience. How often do cameras zoom in on a landscape painting until you cannot make out the figures meant to be viewed from ten feet away? How often do TV directors look intently at a contestant when the quiz question they are struggling with could be shown to test us watchers?
I tell you what… lets all put our names in a giant hat and be picked next time such a slot needs filling. Either that or get a celebrity who has great enthusiasm to learn (like Sue Perkins on the Mekong) or is an expert in the subject matter (like Bill Baily on Wallace) or has a feel for the weird and quirky (like Paul Merton in China).
While you are at it Mr TV Producer, dump the boring travellers whom we are supposed to care about whether they get from A to B by camel, and ditch boorish, racist, elitist and thoroughly obnoxious, overpaid car enthusiasts!